The subject of sleep is often neglected when talking about healthy lifestyles and physical fitness.
Much is discussed about making good choices regarding nutritious food and physical activity, but sleep seems to be an afterthought. When it is mentioned, it is rarely emphasized as being just as important as diet and exercise.
It should be. Think of sleep, nutrition and physical activity as being the legs of a three-legged stool, each bearing equal weight; when one is compromised, the whole structure will eventually topple.
With school now in full swing and students devoting time to homework, athletics, extracurricular and social activities, they can easily become deprived of the sleep they need.
Over time, sleep deprivation adds up. Losing one hour of sleep per night is like losing a full night's sleep by the end of a week.
A student who is sleep-deprived will show a decline in attentiveness, compromised short-term memory, inconsistency in performance and delayed response time. Additional signs include mood swings, problems in school, tardiness, stimulant use and driving accidents.
When a body is deprived of adequate sleep, it doesn't complete all of the sleep cycles needed for overall good mental and physical health. Thus, we wake up less prepared to concentrate, to make decisions and to engage fully in school.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends this much sleep based on age:
* 10 hours a night for children 6 to 9.
* A little more than 9 hours for children 10 to 12.
* Eight to 10 hours for children 13 to 18.
Kids between the ages of 10 and 18 require a lot of sleep to compensate for the process of puberty and adolescence. Only during the first years of a child's life does the body grow and change at a rate faster than during these eight years.
Parents play an essential role in making sure their kids have enough sleep. Having guidelines and routines for bedtime can be helpful.
With technology so prevalent, many homes have multiple televisions, computers, gaming systems and cell phones, all of which can impede the wind-down time a body needs to prepare for restful sleep.
Research shows that a wind-down period of 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime can aid people in falling asleep and staying asleep.
That means kids and teenagers might need to modify their bedtime routines, shutting off computers, TVs, games and other electronic devices earlier than they're used to. Fit Kids is a weekly feature written for The Wichita Eagle by physical education teachers and staff in the Wichita school district. This column was written by Melanie Moore, physical education teacher at Allison Middle School.